DENVER — Khris Middleton had 29 points and a career-high 12 assists, Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 30 points and the Milwaukee Bucks won their fifth straight game by beating the Denver Nuggets 125-112 on Monday night.
Middleton's 12th assist was a thing of beauty — a pinpoint pass to Antetokounmpo for a dunk with 1:39 remaining to give the Bucks a 120-110 lead.
Bryn Forbes had 15 points for the Bucks, who earned a rare win in the Mile High City. Milwaukee improved to 10-40 all-time at Denver.
Nikola Jokic finished with 35 points and 12 rebounds in a showdown with Antetokounmpo. Jokic couldn't quite replicate his shooting touch from the other night when he scored a career-high 50 points at Sacramento.
Will Barton added a season-high 24 points as the Nuggets dropped their third straight.
Before the game, Nuggets coach Michael Malone broke down Antetokounmpo's talents this way: “The athleticism, the ability to get downhill to use that Euro-step, to use his size, length and athleticism to live in the paint and finish at a high level.”
That proved to be an apt description, with Antetokounmpo scoring 14 points in the third quarter and hitting a big 3-pointer late in the fourth.
Milwaukee and Denver came out launching from 3-point range in the first half, combining to go 19 of 49. The Nuggets led 62-59 at the break in a tight opening half that featured 14 lead changes.
Bucks: G Jrue Holiday was out due to the NBA's health and safety protocols. ... The Bucks outrebounded the Nuggets by a 50-38 margin.
Nuggets: Gary Harris missed his third straight game with a strained left adductor. ... F Paul Millsap had 14 points. ... Reserve G Monte Morris finished with 12 points. ... G Jamal Murray went 4 of 17 from the floor in scoring 11 points.
Asked about the marquee matchup between Jokic and Antetokounmpo, Malone feigned hurt feelings.
“Are you telling me the marquee matchup isn’t Michael Malone and Mike Budenholzer?” Malone kidded.
When it comes to containing stars such as Jokic, Budenholzer, the Bucks' coach, maintained it’s important to take a committee approach.
“We want people connected at all times and ready to help cover for each other," Budenholzer explained. "It goes to another level when you’re playing the elite players. You’ve got to be even more active, more committed and then you’ve got to scramble around that.”
Bucks forward Torrey Craig returned to Denver after spending his first three seasons with the Nuggets. The team put together a video tribute to him and aired it on the scoreboard in the first quarter. Craig finished with nine points — all on 3-pointers.
“In the time Torrey was here, he had a tremendous impact on our culture and our winning,” Malone said. “I miss Torrey Craig, the person. I have a lot of respect for who he is and the journey he took to get where he is.”
Bucks: Game No. 4 of a six-game trip will be Wednesday in Phoenix.
Nuggets: Host Cleveland on Wednesday. Lost both games to the Cavs last season.
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Pat Graham, The Associated Press